True North Health

The Therapy of Hope

Throughout our history, humans have gone through many times of despair. Families have lost hope. At times, people have felt and feel hopeless. I don’t want to sound like a downer, but all of us, at times, have wondered if it’s worth it. We have contemplated giving up on a relationship, a teenage son or daughter, a job, and yes, ourselves.

I have taken many courses throughout my life, and I’ve read many books, but none affected me as much as “A Theology of Hope,” by J. Moltmann. In it he writes,

Totally without hope one cannot live. To live without hope is to cease to live. Hell is hopelessness. It is no accident that above the entrance to Dante’s hell is the inscription: “Leave behind all hope, you who enter here.”

People come to therapy because they have feelings of hopelessness. As a young therapist, I was inspired by Moltmann’s declaration, to be an instrument of hope. At the very heart of therapy is the goal of helping people find hope, because without it they cannot live.

I believe that hopeful people inspire hopefulness in others. A hopeful therapist has many tools and strategies for helping people, but most important they inspire hopefulness. I believe they infect people with their hopefulness. They engage in a Therapy of Hope.

I have often advised that, when people leave their therapy sessions with a therapist, and they do not feel more hopeful, that they should seek out another therapist. It doesn’t matter how many letters they have after their names or books on their shelves, what you need is more hope. Thankfully, there are many, many clinicians that are able to give you this most basic gift.

Book Review of Jean Twenge's iGen

Book Review: iGen by Jean Twenge

I challenge you to visit a public setting with children and or teenagers present and observe. I predict you will see many smartphones and tablets. There is no question that the current generation of kids utilizes a lot more screen time than the previous generations (GenXers and Millennials). Jean Twenge, the author of “iGens: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood–and What That Means for the Rest of Us,” calls these kids, “super connected.”

In her book, Twenge outlines several behavioral differences that distinguish iGens from previous generations. “Born in 1995 and later,” she writes, “they grew up with cell phones, had Instagram pages before they started High School and do not remember a time before the Internet.”

Throughout “iGens,” Twenge highlights several characteristics of this generation. Some of these include: a prolonged adolescence, a decrease in in-person social interactions, an increased risk for mental health disorders. Additional, she reports an increased interest in safety and a decline in participation in religion as well as a decrease in drinking alcohol, sexual activity and dating.

Although Twenge cautions us to not see a strict causality between the increased use of the internet and these trends, the studies that she cites should make us take pause.

I wonder, though, if other cultural changes have contributed to the increased adolescent anxiety and isolation. Some of the more relevant changes have been: school shootings, the extreme political polarization, and maybe, just maybe a change in parental leadership and guidance in the home.

Many Millennials experienced similar pressures from TV and gaming systems and were tempted to spend all of their free time in front of a screen. Parents, however, implemented structure and guidelines to counter these temptations.

Most GenXers and Millennials were not encouraged to work, but expected to get jobs. This was followed with a checking account and the expectation that they would manage their own money.

Maybe, the more important questions to ask are: Is this a technology problem or an overconsumption and accessibility problem? And, what role do parents play in guiding and training kids in the use of this technology?

Twenge provides several practical remedies for this overconsumption problem. These include: delaying the age at which kids get smart phones, encouraging in-person interactions with peers, placing the smart phone at least 10 feet from the bed at night, and adding parent controls on the phone via apps. I can’t help but think that they need more. They need to learn the etiquette for using cell phones in public settings. They need to learn to put their phones “face down” when people are present. Kids need to learn to self-regulate the use of their phones.

Another strategy would be for parents to encourage activities that make it impractical for kids to engage in “phone behaviors.” This might involve outdoor activities, activities that involve the use of both hands, or activities that do not allow cell phone use.

“iGens” sounds the alarm. Kids need our help. Technology is rarely a bad thing, but overuse and misuse of this technology can be. Giving kids skills to address this technology can prevent some of the distress that they are experiencing today.


Mark K. Neese, LCSW, BCBA

Clinical Director

True North Counseling

Louisville, KY

Disclaimer: I purchased this book with my own funds and no expectations from the author and/or publisher for a positive review.



Switchbacks: A Therapeutic Backpacking Program

True North Counseling Launches a New Program for Teens

I was introduced to Willard Gray when I was 14 years old. He was the 4-H Extension agent in Warrick County, Indiana. Willard introduce 3 other boys and me to the woods of Southern Indiana and Kentucky. He was a wonderful man. We spent time hiking ad camping in the Land Between the Lakes, Mammoth Cave, and in many, many state parks and forests. We were birders and foresters. I remember riding to Illinois early one morning to watch the Greater Prairie Chickens in the driving snow. He gave me memories that I will never forget.

True North Counseling believes that introducing young people to nature will change their lives.

We are launching a new program called “Switchbacks.” We will invite teenage boys and girls from the inner city and kids of color to hike and backpack into the woods of Jefferson Memorial Forests, as well as the forests of Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee and parks throughout the country. This therapeutic backpacking will teach them about birds and trees and help them disconnect with the internet and connect with nature.

True North will recruit men and women who want to invest in the lives of young people. These men and women will share their love of the forests and woods.

True North will provide backpacking gear and a vision for these young people. Trips will include campfires and inspirational stories. The program will include cohorts of 6 teens that last 6 months. All alumni from the program can continue to participate with new cohorts. They can share their visions with new participants.

If you want to sponsor one of these young people or be an adult mentor, contact True North at 502-777-7525.

True North Counseling Park Blog

Friday Waypoints – 10/19/18

What I’ve been Watching on TV-

I spent the week re-watching: Ken Burns: The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. This is such an inspiring documentary. It’s inspiring, not because of the beautiful scenery, but because of the brave and visionary people that made this park system possible.

There is an overlook at the Grand Canyon called Mather Point. It memorializes the first Director of the National Park Service, Stephen Mather. After his death in 1929, a bronze plaque was erected in every National Park that reads:

He laid the foundation of the National Park Service, defining and establishing the policies under which its areas shall be developed and conserved unimpaired for future generations. There will never come an end to the good that he has done.”

Lessons from My Clients-

I work with several kiddos that are being raised by their grandparents. These caregivers are in the trenches working with damaged children and it takes its toll on them. I think what they need from me, from us, it to be encouraged and told that they are making a difference. Sometimes a few words of encouragement are more effective than all the interventions that we can provide. This is a lesson I hope to apply in weeks and years to come.

Books I’m Reading-

“When We Go Camping” by Margriet Ruurs, Illustrated by Andrew Kiss

“Grand Canyon” by Jason Chin

I’m reading these excellent children’s books so that I can recommend to you some ways to spend time reading books to help introduce your children to the forest and to the most amazing place in this country, the Canyon. The first is for younger children and the second is for older.

Ruurs closes her book with a campfire invitation:

“It’s campfire time. When stars wink from up high and

Sparks fly into the night sky, orange flames dance away the darkness.

We snuggle closer and tell wonderful, scary tales.”

Dr. Bob Book Review True North Counseling

The Book That Changed My Life

I have been active most of my life. I was running in the 1970’s when they called it “jogging.” I was hit or miss. Decades later, I was turning forty and had just finish three years of graduate school and let’s just say, I had put on a few pounds. Sensing my frustration, my father sent me a book that had just come out, “Dr. Bob Arnot’s Guide to Turning Back the Clock,” by Robert Arnot, M.D. It changed my life.

I’ll never forget the question that he asked: “What do most Europeans talk about when they go back home after visiting the USA?”

  1. A) The Grand Canyon,
  2. B) The Statue of Liberty,
  3. C) Mount Rushmore, or
  4. D) The Balloon People? And by Balloon People, he meant, the people that looked like balloons.

Of course, you probably guessed that the answer is, D) the Balloon People (66% OF AMERICANS ARE OVERWEIGHT OR OBESE).

I did not want to be one of the Balloon People!!!

In his book, Arnot challenged his readers to, “look, feel, and act like an athlete in a sport you grow to love.” There it was! I saw a challenge that could turn back the clock in my life.

I remember lounging in my bed one Sunday morning in 1996, reading this book. Envisioning myself as an athlete, I became excited.

For these past twenty-plus years, I have been acting like an athlete. I have hiked to the top of some of the highest mountains in the continental United States (Mt Bierstadt on my 60th birthday). I have done solo backpacking trips through the Grand Canyon, ridden my bicycle across the state of Indiana in one day, and have run many half-marathons and 3 marathons. Of course, I surrounded myself with like-minded people, but it was the shift in my thinking that sparked this change in my like.

How does the saying go….”act as if?” I began acting as if I was an athlete and I continue to do so today.  I hope you too pick up the book and get inspired!


Mark K. Neese, LCSW, BCBA

Clinical Director

True North Counseling

Louisville, KY

Disclaimer: I purchased this book with my own funds and no expectations from the author and/or publisher for a positive review.

True North Counseling Hiking

Friday Waypoints – 10/12/18

Lessons from My Clients

Sometimes the lessons we learn feel negative. I learned this past week that I cannot help everyone. It is sobering. I want to help everyone, but of course, some people have been so injured, or neglected, or have been broken to the point that they are beyond my help. And the most difficult transaction comes when, after a year, you have to explain that to a client. People deserve honesty. As a therapist, “speaking the truth,” at times, means letting my client know that I cannot help them. Then, I become a guide to help them find someone that will.

A Book I’m Reading

I’ve been reading, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder,” by Richard Louv. I will be providing a review next week, but I wanted to provide a statement or two now. Louv’s work provides a remedy for “super-connected” kids, and adults as well. “Unlike television (and I would add the Internet),” Louv writes, “nature does not steal time; it amplifies it. Nature offers healing for a child living in a hectic world.”

A Meditation App I’m Using – Insight Timer-

This app has been very helpful. I love the timer function. It begins and ends a session with a chime. You can have background sounds during the session. And there are a plethora of guided meditations. I’m still a novice but this app has been very helpful.

True North Health and Fitness Blog

The One Reason You’re Failing

People begin and end fitness and nutrition plans all the time. They begin with high hopes and end a few months later a little discouraged. What went wrong? Why did they fail?

I’m convinced that there are many diets that are healthy and can help you lose weight. I’m convinced that most exercise programs will help you get in better shape. Additionally, I’m convinced that it isn’t the diet or exercise program that matters, it’s the strategy or modality that you use to follow the program.

We fail at our fitness and exercise programs because we are utilizing strategies that are not a good fit with our personality.

So what is your personality type? If you don’t know, I recommend visiting You can take the personality inventory for free, or pay and get a comprehensive description of your type (there are 16 different types). If you are a J (Judging) vs. P (Perceiving), then you prefer more structure and more routine.

I am an INFP. The P means perceiving and indicates that I prefer less structure in my life. Here is what the experts say about me:

  • A live-and-let-live attitude comes naturally to INFPs, and they dislike being constrained by rules.
  • They are spontaneous and often juggle several projects at once. They enjoy starting a task better than finishing it.
  • Because of the preference for perceiving over judging, people with INFP have both the positive characteristics of the perceiving type (flexibility, adaptability, openness, etc.) as well as the negative (disorganization, messiness, indecisiveness, etc.).

This means that I don’t do well with structured programs. I don’t do well with programs that require week-after-week of adherence; to programs that require me to monitor and use some level of self-control over a lifetime. I know myself and I know that this strategy does not work. I need dieting and fitness breaks. If my workouts are more intuitive and not so regimented, I’ll do better.

Get to know yourself through this assessment and then adjust your dieting strategy to better suit your personality. You’ll enjoy it more and you’ll be more likely to maintain it over a lifetime.


True North Weekly Waypoints

Friday Waypoints – 10/05/18


As I explained in a previous blog, Waypoints are significant events or moments from my past week that help me stay oriented as to where I am and where I’m going.

Lessons from My Clients: Let your Pain (Misery) Guide You

I was speaking with a foster parent this past week. She was very frustrated about the events of this past month. She and her husband were fostering a 15-year old boy who had been very challenging.

Listening to her, my heart went out to these foster parents, Tom and Jenny (not their real names). They love serving others and this love has motivated them to work with foster kids.

But in Jenny’s voice, I could hear her misery. She was in pain. I asked her if there were things that she was doing in the community that brought her joy and fulfillment. She responded that they were involved in a young couple’s class in their church and that this had been very fulfilling. I then responded that her pain and misery were indicators that “maybe, just maybe” fostering teenagers is not a good fit for her and her husband. I heard a sigh and then she said, “Mark, thank you for bringing this up. We’ve wondered about this but felt bad about considering getting out of fostering.”

I responded, “Jenny, let your pain, guide you. Maybe it’s telling you that fostering teenagers isn’t a good fit for you and Tom.”

The lesson I learned from these dear people is to let my pain and misery guide me. A professor of mine, while in graduate school, provided this guidance, “Never take away a person’s misery, it will serve as a motivation for change.”

Pain and misery are my change agents, and I will let them guide me to grow and to consider new adventures in years to come. Thank you Tom and Jenny.

Meaningful Moment: Hiking the Jeff Forest

There is a Gem in this city and it’s called, The Jefferson Memorial Forest. 6500 acres. Green. Hilly. Beautiful. Within that 6500 acres is a very beautiful place: The Horine Cemetery. I often take new hikers out there and hiked out there this past week. I encourage you to do the same as I recently reviewed Forest Therapy, and clearly hiking out to places like this was the kind of thing that Sarah Ivens was recommending. Study the history of this Cemetery and of the people that donated this land for our use and enjoyment. Very inspiring!

Book I’m Reading This week

“iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood” –Jean M. Twenge Ph.D.

If you have pre-teens or teenagers in your home or work with them, you’ll want to read this book. “Adolescence,” she writes, “is now an extension of childhood rather than the beginning of adulthood.” I’ll be giving a full book review soon, but an excellent recourse for parents.

Self Help True North Counseling

How is Your Health?

I only ask because it matters.

First, let’s get a definition of health. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines it as: “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

The WHO has adopted the Bio-Psycho-Social Model of health. I like it. Healthy people have high levels of Well-being.

Why does this matter?

The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion began a website back in the 1990s ( to monitor the health of Americans.

Here is what they said: “People with higher levels of well-being judge their life as going well. They feel very healthy and full of energy to take on their daily activities. They’re satisfied, interested, and engaged with their lives. They experience a sense of accomplishment from their activities and judge their lives to be meaningful. These people are more often content or cheerful than depressed or anxious. They get along with others and experience good social relationships. Personal factors, social circumstances, and community environments influence well-being.”

Being healthy affects your quality of life. There, I said it. If, as Mental Health Professionals, we only focus on your mental health, we are not helping you!

I am not satisfied with just addressing your mental health issues. As such, I’m going to provide several postings that will focus on Nutrition and Fitness.

I want to start by asking you to complete an assessment that was developed by the Rand Health. It’s called the SF-36. It’s free. It will measure the impact that your health is having on your quality of life. I took it and scored a 95 out of 100. Here is the link:

Let me know how you scored, I look forward to continuing the conversation about mental health in the comments!